In Part 1 of this series, we listed out a number of models that we were keen to look at, including the 2012-2014 Ford Mustang, and 2000-2002 Firebird Trans Am WS6. That list didn’t include the Chevrolet Camaro, and I’m not sure why.

So I checked them out. In 2016, Chevy gave the interior of the Camaro a much-needed refresh as well as some design changes on the outside that really lifted the car’s appearance, meaning these would be the models I’d be looking at.

I started looking at used Camaros, again ideally a manual gearbox model. That LS V8 was calling me, and I spent far too many hours on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace hunting for the perfect car.

2023 USA Road Trip | Hello, New Camaro

Then I started looking at new Camaros. For what felt like not much more cash, we could hop into a brand-new manual Camaro and do our road trip across the USA, then ship the car home. Sure, our budget would be blown but my wife was on board with the idea so that was enough for me. 

I did more hunting around Chevrolet dealers in Los Angeles. Like New Zealand, in the USA car sales have gone crazy, and pickings are a bit slim. This also means new cars in the USA are selling at or above the recommended new car price (MSRP), which has been unheard of in the past. Add to this the fact that the Camaro is in its last year of production, and that means not many Camaros to choose from. Still, I soldiered on, the dream of owning a new Camaro hanging like a carrot in front of me.

But that meant dealing with car salesmen in LA. Put simply, they are unbelievable. In 2016 when we bought a Dodge Challenger new, it was an experience I did not want to relive and here I was doing just that. Car salesmen in LA are relentless. Even if you send a message from their website saying “Don’t call me, just email”, they will still call, over and over. Three or four times a day I would get calls from one saleswoman asking me to come down and take a test drive.

Obviously, I’m not going to have a test drive, so I was cautious in any future wording of messages to them, often it would read like this:

I would like a cash-only price for your 2023 Camaro LT, stock number XXXX. I do not need to drive this car, it is a cash sale so no finance. I have no trade-in. I just want your best driveaway price for this vehicle. Please DO NOT call me, please email.

Of course, they always ask for your phone number regardless, and not wanting to seem like a scammer to them, I’d give them my USA mobile number.

And guess what? They still ring and ask when I can come down and drive the car. They either don’t read the message, or they are sure that once you actually drive the car you are looking at, you will buy it. I’m sure that does happen, but I wasn’t interested. They’d also try to push me into financing the car every time since they make so much more commission that way.

On and on the calls and TXTs went, and I am still getting them. In the end, that experience and also the fact that at US$40K, a base V8 Camaro would cost over NZ$100K to land ended the dream of buying a new one.

2023 USA Road Trip | Goodbye, New Camaro

So it was back to used vehicles. Another car that wasn’t on our orignal list was a Corvette. Since we’d already done a cross-country USA trip in a C4 Corvette, we were keen to try another car. Not that we don’t love the Corvette, but our C4 has rock-hard suspension, is VERY low to the ground, and also has extremely high sills. That all makes it a less-than-ideal road trip car across America.

However, as we said in Part 1, at the top of our list is an unmodified car. In Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers this is a tough call – American muscle-car owners love to modify their cars and finding a stock-standard one is difficult at best.

2023 USA Road Trip | Hello, C5 Corvette

But maybe not impossible. One day on Facebook Marketplace, a 1-owner Corvette turned up for sale. My eyes lit up – 2002 model year, one owner, completely stock standard, 6-speed manual (!), finished in metallic red and just 39,000 miles on the clock. For a 2002 car, that’s extremely low. Some of the Corvettes I’ve seen have done 200,000 miles or more, with the majority over 100,000 miles. 

This model that came up is a C5, so the last of the model with pop-up headlights, but a huge improvement overall from our C4 Corvette, and it has the LS1, an all-alloy 5.7-litre V8 engine. If it was an automatic I would have walked away but this one has the six-speed manual gearbox. The owner listed it at $22,490.

The leather interior is black and one of my preferred options is anything but black, but the manual gearbox, red paint and other things about this car cancelled out the desire for a non-black interior.

It was time for action, so I contacted Craig from Kiwi Shipping USA and sent him the details and photos. He agreed it was worth going and checking it out. On contacting the owner, I found out it wasn’t quite a one-owner car. The new owner bought it as a retirement present for his dad a few weeks earlier but his dad needed an automatic gearbox and found getting in and out too difficult, so he decided to sell it. Since the car hasn’t been titled (registered) yet, officially it is still a one-owner car.

Craig went around to the guy’s business in Los Angeles where the car is stored, with a trolley jack so he can get right up underneath and check it out. Kiwi Shipping USA is very aware of our compliance regulations and WoF laws. Since Craig is a Kiwi, he knows what to look for. He took 184 photos of the car, all over it. As expected, the underneath is almost like new, the body – although there are a few stone chips – is unmarked, and the interior is pretty much like new. 

It was obvious the car is completely unmodified, even down to the exhaust. Thoughts of our C4 Corvette with its 11-year-old tyres came to mind. For the C4, we ended up buying four new tyres for it in LA before our road trip, as we didn’t want to rely on old tyres when driving 10,000km. On this C5, Michelin Pilot Sports are fitted. Looking at the date code, they are from 2016 but being a quality tyre, we would likely leave them on the car and just see how it goes. If they ride too hard or just feel too risky to drive 12,000km on, we’d replace them.

As far as Craig was concerned, this car was worth buying. It should go through compliance in New Zealand without issue. 

So the owner and I had a small discussion and ended up agreeing on a price of $20,500. $500 would cover his time and the expense of registering (titling) the car in LA. We had to do this ourselves with the C4 Corvette, and it was an entire day wasted. To have the car titled and ready to drive will be a huge bonus.

At US$20,500, that C5 Corvette is going to cost around $50K to land in New Zealand. There’s not much we can do about that, but owning the car from now until it arrives back on a ship should give us a discount as the government does at least allow for some depreciation if you have owned it for more than 3 months.

One huge bonus here is that Kiwi Shipping USA has advised that the actual shipping cost has at last dropped from US$5,300 in our last article, to currently US$3,200. When you consider that GST is added to the shipping cost, that US$2,100 drop adds up to a good NZ$4,000 off our landed cost. But – and there’s always a but – on July 1st, the cost of importing pretty much any used V8 went up from $2,875 to $3,450 due to an increase in the Clean Car Programme fees. Feels like we aren’t winning, here.

Like in Part 1, here is an updated spreadsheet with the cost of the car, and its expected landed cost. Here’s hoping by the time we actually ship the car back that the shipping cost has dropped again:

More details about our ‘new’ C5 Corvette? It has the ‘Preferred Equipment Group 2’ option and that means:

  • A heads-up display (one of the earliest production cars to offer this)
  • Power driver and passenger’s seats with memory
  • Dual-zone AC
  • Fog lamps
  • Automatic headlights
  • Power adjustment for the telescoping steering wheel.

Our car has some additional options, including a manual gearbox. Unbelievably, this is an extra-cost item at $915. The Magnetic Red metallic paint was $600, a 12-disc CD changer another $600, a ‘spare’ transparent roof at $750, and the polished alloy wheels an extra $1,295 for a total purchase price in 2002 of $49,400.

The LS1 motor in a manual C5 puts out 350hp (261kW), torque is listed at 476Nm and by all accounts, the listed fuel economy of 28mpg (that’s equal to 8.4L/100Km) is very achievable. Many C5 Corvette owners claim fuel economy better than that. In 2019, our C4 Corvette averaged 11.7l/100km in our 11,000km road trip across the USA, so I’m really hoping we are going to better that with the C5. Not helping our fuel economy in 2019 were the 60 books in the boot that my wife had bought while we crossed the USA. Every book sucked more gas. The C5 has a lot more storage than the C4, which my wife likes (although we’ve agreed to no more books this trip).

Performance – when new – is pretty good for a 2002 car. Getting to 100km/h takes 4.5 seconds, and the car tops out at 175mp/h (281km/h). That’s plenty fast enough for us.

So for the moment, that’s it. The C5 has been picked up by Kiwi Shipping USA who will store it for us.

While I can’t drive the car for quite a while yet, I can look at stuff we need to get for it, for our road trip. We need to look at things to buy to make our road trip life easier.

2023 USA Road Trip | Servicing

I also need to develop a list of things we need to do or buy when we land, and probably organise a service of the car in advance of us getting there. This would include:

  • Oil and filter change
  • Coolant flush and fill
  • Serpentine belt change
  • Brake check
  • Clutch fluid flush
  • Gearbox oil change
  • Diff oil change
  • Anything else that looks worn out

2023 USA Road Trip | SatNav Options

In 2019, when in Phoenix I replaced the aftermarket stereo in our C4 Corvette with a Sony unit that had Apple CarPlay. This was perfect for navigating some of the horrendous interstate flyovers etc in the USA, and we desperately wanted to have the same sort of thing again. Trying to navigate the USA on a phone screen is not ideal.

But this C5’s interior is entirely original, including the head unit. I can buy a double-din head and a replacement centre console that allows for that, but it means pulling the car apart and doing it. There’s an option here of using someone like BestBuy, who has an installing service, but memories of last time with the C4 put that option out. They couldn’t do it, and honestly, I don’t want Best Buy pulling apart the original interior of the C5. I did the stereo install myself in the C4 Corvette while in Phoenix, and it was a mission – a whole day lost to that one job.

Then I came across a Youtube video of a C5 Corvette with a “portable” receiver. I had no idea these things even existed. The portable units can be mounted with a suction cup, so no holes in the dash – just suction cup it to the windscreen.

In the end, I found a unit that does wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has a built-in front camera for DVR, and comes with a rear camera for reversing/DVR (if I want to run the wire). For US$269, it was a no-brainer.

I’ve got this unit coming to New Zealand so we can test it out before we go, so when we land there is no mucking about trying to learn how it works etc – we’ll just plug it in and go. Not having to pull the dash apart is one thing I am happy to cross off the list.

2023 USA Road Trip | Other Goodies

It doesn’t stop with a new screen, of course. We need to get some other items to make the interior more liveable on a 6-week, 12,000km roadie. One thing we learnt when we bought our Dodge Ram and did a 3-month roadie around the USA is stone chips. Our Ram ended up with plenty, and so after some hunting, I found that West Coast Corvettes, an auto accessory store dedicated to the Corvette, has small plastic splash guards available. Even better, you can get the in the same colour as the car. I’ve ordered four of these at US$190, and we’ll pick those up straight after we land. My plan is to get these installed by the auto service centre we choose. It should take long to install them and will reduce stone chips down the side of the car.

But you can’t just stop at splash guards, right? I’ve also got new front car mats and a boot mat. I’m always into protecting the interior as much as I can to retain the car’s value. Since the C5 Corvette’s cup holder is this, which is possibly the smallest cup holder in the world:

That ain’t gonna hold a cup of coffee for very long, so I’ve purchased a dual-cup holder that also has some small storage pockets:

With limited storage in the C5 Corvette, every little bit helps. From West Coast Corvettes, I’ve also purchased a cargo cover to keep our gear out of sight, and ‘jacking pucks’; small, alloy pucks that are used when jacking the car, to avoid the sills being damaged.

West Coast Corvettes have been very helpful and have these things and more sitting in an office, waiting for us to land and pick them up.

2023 USA Road Trip | Waiting Time

That’s it for now. With 6 weeks until we take off, most things are in place. Hopefully, the next article in this series will be when we land and everything just falls into place. Famous last words!


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Our 2002 C5 Corvette, safely tucked away in storage waiting for us to land in Los Angeles
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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


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